KARLSKRONA, Sweden – Once upon a time considered a hockey backwater, the tide has swiftly turned as Karlskrona charges ahead with wind firmly in their sails.
Formed as recently as 2001, Karlskrona HK's ascent has been nothing short of remarkable. With the men's team now competing in their third consecutive season in the SHL, the lofty ambition of its up-and-coming women's team is to find its way into the SDHL before hoisting the domestic championship trophy by 2025.
With the bar firmly set high, the building blocks appear to be falling into place for the club in tangerine and black from Sweden's only naval port town at the southeastern edge of the country.
The omens are promising. Housing one of the largest female hockey sections in the country, currently with 100 active players where the development of young talent is at the core for a thriving future.
The club's progressive work was once again directly on display during this weekend as Karlskrona HK hosted the World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend. Teeming with anticipation, youngsters between the ages of 5 to 13 crammed onto the NKT Arena ice in high spirits.
“We had roughly 60 girls on the ice and they were assisted by nine players from our ladies’ team. About 20 of our regular girls were missing during this practice but instead, we saw ten new girls join in to try hockey for the first time,” said Johan Thornqvist of Karlskrona HK during an eventful day of bustling activity.
“With 60 participants there was a slight chaos inside the dressing room, but once we got out on the ice we had a lot of fun,” said Thornqvist of the two-hour long session. Participants were divided into small groups based on their experience where skating and shooting were emphasized in a playful manner before matches ensued.
With Karlskrona HK having been ever-present in all seven editions of the World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend, the event was covered by many watchful eyes from various media outlets in what has turned into a tradition for the club.
“During the early years this was the day when we recruited almost all new girls to our team,” said Thornqvist. “With our club having hosted so many WGIHWs and also been very active in promoting girls ice hockey within the community, we now have a steady stream of girls coming to our team also out with this day. Still, it’s a great day where all our girls can be together out on the ice, have fun and practise the best sport of all,” he said.
Based on their recent success, two sets of youth teams, one formed by players born between 2008 and 2012, the other by older players born between 2003 to 2007, now look to continue their progress. The challenge for Karlskrona HK is now to try and bridge the gap for juniors to be ready and step into senior hockey and then play their part in that predicted title-winning senior team in eight years’ time.